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Ireland 00:00 South Africa

Six Nations: Peter O'Mahony restored to Ireland team for decider in France

Last Updated: 13/03/14 3:08pm

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Peter O'Mahony: Back in starting XV after hamstring injury

Peter O'Mahony: Back in starting XV after hamstring injury

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Ireland have made only one change to their starting line-up for their Six Nations title-deciding clash against France in Paris.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has recalled fit-again flanker Peter O'Mahony in place of Iain Henderson as veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll makes his 141st and final international appearance.

Henderson has been named on the bench alongside Ian Madigan, who could make his first appearance of the tournament at the Stade de France.

The Leinster fly-half will provide cover for Johnny Sexton in place of Ulster No 10 Paddy Jackson, who has deputised throughout this year's competition.

Henderson can be utilised at either lock or in the back row and Jordi Murphy is retained among the replacements, while Rhys Ruddock had been omitted from the match-day squad.

Madigan has made only 11 starts for Leinster this season as he shares the workload with New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth, but he can also cover at inside centre as well as fly-half.

His added versatility could prove crucial as Ireland, currently top of the table by virtue of a superior points difference to England, attempt to win in Paris for only the third time in 42 years.

Schmidt admitted that Jackson would have started at fly-half had Sexton not been fit, adding that Madigan offers vital options from the bench.

Confident

"Sometimes you make those replacements because of injury and sometimes to change up what you're doing," Schmidt said. "I feel confident Ian's the right man to do those two things for us within the current squad.

"He played through the autumn and he has trained with us for the full eight weeks throughout this tournament. If you can't show confidence in a player then perhaps you've got to go outside the squad, and that's not ideal either.

"Ian is a very good player and he does give us coverage through the midfield and at full-back. It's been a pretty combative campaign - we just started to creak a little bit, so we just needed the coverage.

"In England we got a couple of niggles, and we didn't have as broad a coverage on the bench as we would have liked.

"If Johnny had been injured, Paddy would have started. But it's Ian's ability to cover 10, centre and 15. He's a reasonably confident young man. He's a massively hard-working young man as well.

"We're in a really luxurious position. It was always a concern when Ronan O'Gara retired, but then Johnny replaced him. And now we've got two emerging 10s behind him growing into the role."

Munster captain O'Mahony has been passed fit after recovering from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for last week's thrashing of Italy in Dublin.

Conor Murray is also clear to retain his starting berth after illness forced him to leave the rout of the Azzuri in the early stages, and Cian Healy has shaken off an ankle strain.

The 26-year-old Leinster front-rower was seen sporting a compression boot as a precaution last weekend, but he was able to return to full training on Tuesday.

O'Driscoll will extend his Six Nations appearance record to 65 in his final Test before retiring in the summer, and the Leinster legend will also take his world-record international centre partnership with Gordon D'Arcy to 56 joint appearances.

Ireland team to play France: 15 R Kearney, 14 A Trimble, 13 B O'Driscoll, 12 G D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney, 10 J Sexton, 9 C Murray; 1 C Healy, 2 R Best, 3 M Ross, 4 D Toner, 5 P O'Connell, 6 P O'Mahony, 7 C Henry, 8 J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore, I Henderson, J Murphy, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden.

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